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Archive for March, 2009

Karen of Keeping Secrets gave me a Sisterhood Award.  Thanks, Karen!

sisterhood-award

It’s awesome to know Karen.  She’s a beautiful person and beautiful poet.  Karen has a powerful poem at her blog about book burning, a subject that sends me into a tailspin.

Joaquin Carvel is another wonderful poet I have met here.  Joaquin and Karen have both given me a challenge.  They ask that I list the 25 writers or poets who have influenced me the most.

I’ve enjoyed reading all the poetry and fiction lists I’ve seen in Blogland lately.  It’s interesting how each list I’ve seen is truly unique to the person who made it.

When I first started making my own list, it quickly escalated into the hundreds, from ancient times to today.  What a challenge to give to a nerdy reader!

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I think I was just naming all of the people whose work I love, including people I have met here.  In order to keep the list to a minimum, I decided to give it three criteria:

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1.  Everyone on the list influenced me in my “formative” years.

2.  I can literally see the influence in my own work.

3.  I’m listing them in order of their appearance in my life.


God – The Bible (King James Version) – Though beautifully written, I don’t think of the bible as “literature.”  For me, it’s God’s holy word.  But I do see the influence in my work, often in my phrasing (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not).  I also see it in theme, especially in Jesus’ compassion for outcasts in society and rage against hypocrites.  I started reading it when I was five-years-old and still do so today.

Ken Kesey- One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – It might seem odd to follow the bible with the Cuckoo’s Nest.  But it makes perfect sense to me.   The men in the institution are outcasts of society.  Many of them are bound by their own chains.  The society in which they live is oppressive and hypocritical.  The main character in the book is a sort of “savior” figure for them.  I found a copy of this book on the side of the road when I was eight.  My poor mother would have been shocked to know I was reading it.  But even at eight, I saw the beauty in this book and still do.  I continue to read it at least twice a year.

Flannery O’Connor – The queen of fiction.  I bow down.  I wish she were still alive, so I could stalk her.  Just kidding about the stalking.  But I know I would go to the ends of the earth to hear her speak.  I study her mechanics, the way she so carefully places each word.  I take apart her sentences and stare at them.  If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never figure them out completely.  There has never been another writer like Flannery O’Connor.

T.S. Eliot – I bought my first book of Eliot’s poems when I was still in grade school.  I didn’t understand it, but I was drawn to the phrasing and imagery.  Since then, I study it almost daily.  Critics be damned.  The theory of the objective correlative IS poetry.

Nikki Giovanni – My junior high favorite.  Reading Giovanni was the first time I realized the importance of voice.  I still love her, of course.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti – Another favorite poet of my youth (and today).  I can’t remember the year, but I think I was in junior high school when I found the poem, Underwear.  It was printed on a purple mimeograph copy and folded inside a book on a back shelf in a small town library.  I got kicked out of the library for laughing.  Okay, I know it’s deeper than that.  But believe me, if you want to turn on a kid to poetry, bring along a copy of Underwear.  A few months later, I found more of his work at a second hand store.

Steinbeck (in particular, The Grapes of Wrath) – It changed my life.

J.D. Salinger (The Catcher in The Rye) - Why, of course.  I was fifteen and full of angst and anger at all the phonies in the world.  I still find it to be an amazing book.  The phonies still make me mad.

William Faulkner – Everything he has ever written.  The king of fiction.  I read that he had a friend named Mr. Buffaloe.  Unfortunately, I’m no relation.

Joyce Carol Oates – I discovered her work in high school and have never put it down.  An amazing writer.

Carson McCullers - Outcasts.  Southern Gothic.  Need I say more?  I’m jealous that she wrote The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter when she was 23.

Eudora Welty – Another excellent writer.  I love to read her after I read Flannery O’Connor and compare the two styles.

James Baldwin – Simply amazing.  Everything he has ever written.  I can’t do him justice here, so I will just bow.

Doris Betts – Her voice has a powerful pull on my heart.

Fred Chappell –  One of my favorite Carolina writers.  His poetry and fiction are equally breathtaking.  I Am One Of You Forever is one of my all time favorite books.  After I wrote my first novel, I soon realized that half of it was a poor imitation of Fred Chappell.

Kell Robertson – An amazing poet.  My hero.  Kell Robertson was the first poet I ever read who wrote poetry about rural themes in a vernacular that felt like my own.  I connect with his themes of lost American landscape.  But my love for his work goes deeper than that.  I could go on for five hundred pages about how great Kell is.  If you look at the links on the right, I have a post about his newest book, The Goofy Goddess On The Wall.  Or you can read a sample of Kell’s poetry HERE.

Charles Fort – My first real life mentor and teacher who is also a dear friend. Charles Fort is the master of the prose poem, but his work encompasses a wide range of styles and themes.  He is also the first person to introduce me to the world of poetry readings.  Charles Fort’s work is powerful, yet lyrical and beautiful in voice and structure.  You can read his bio HERE.  Click on “Selection” to read some sample poems.  He was a wonderful, lively teacher and a master poet.

Howard McCord – The documentary about Howard McCord’s life, The Tao of Poetry, says it all.  He is another amazing teacher and poet.  A master.  Though some call him an American Badass, I will always remember him as a sweet, gentle man who had endless patience with younger poets.  Check him out HERE.

Keith Wilson - I did not “know” Keith Wilson personally, but I was fortunate enough to take a class with him.  I am so sad that he has passed away.  His work is beautiful and powerful.  Check it out HERE.

Art Coelho – Art Coelho is a master poet, fiction writer, and artist.  He’s another dear friend I love.  I stand in awe of his work.  Art’s writing spans many forms, and he is also another master of the prose poem.  (Art, if you’re reading this, please forgive me if I embarrass you by slobbering.  I can’t help myself). From April 11 through June 27, you can check out his artwork at the Boston Public Library’s Portugese-American exhibit, Twice Removed.  His excellent poetry is also in the current (spring ’09) issue of Prairie Schooner.   This list wouldn’t have been complete without Art.

Joy Harjo – Her work is so beautiful; she makes me cry.  I cannot even describe what it has done for me throughout the years.  Check her out HERE.

Alice Walker – Beautiful Alice.  I met her work when I was going through a difficult time, and she made me realize that difficult is a relative term.

Bukowski - I love his lines, his themes, his phrasing.  Why, of course.  Buk’s the man.

Edward Gaines – Amazing.  I have lost many nights of sleep by staying up to read his work.

Anne Sexton – I had read a lot of Plath and other “confessional” poets, but I felt a big connection with Sexton’s work during my college years.  I still love it.

Martin Jack Rosenblum (especially The Holy Ranger: Harley Davidson Poems). - Freaking Amazing. The book is actually licensed by the Harley-Davidson Motor Co. Check it out HERE

Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel- The queen of poetry.  Art Coelho turned me on to her work, and I am still trying to catch my breath.  You can read her HERE.

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Did you notice I cheated?  I couldn’t quite keep it down to 25.  Sorry!

I know I’m going to kick myself after I post this, because I have at least twenty more people I would like to list.  My early years would also have to include a lot of classic poets, children’s literature, and Mark Twain.

When I say I literally see these influences in my work, I don’t mean that I will ever be as great as any of them are.  I’m hoping that someday, I can take what they have taught me and shape it into something that is completely mine.

Please feel free to comment or leave your list in the comments section.  If you do one at your own site, let us know.

Thanks for the interesting challenge, Karen and Joaquin!

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The Net Mender

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

Captain Jake sat in a hole

like an old, gray clam

never dug from the mud.

His ground was worn down

after years of burlap sacks

and dewy nets spread

around his cracked black boots.

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Once he had been a shrimper,

an oysterman, clammer, a crabber,

an outlaw, a lover, a pirate, a rogue.

But those oak foggy mornings,

he weaved nets and stories for me,

a wild ass schoolgirl who dreaded

the sound of the big yellow bus

as it crunched through shells

down my little dirt road.

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I wish I could go back and kiss

the music of his old, dancing hands,

his fingernails ridged hard and blue,

the flash of fish scales stuck

in his wind curly beard,

the way he smelled like Carolina

moss, hot sauce, and She Crab Soup.

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Next to a fish house

where tired boats bobbed

heavy with last night’s catch,

I dug for treasures

in the net mender’s hole:

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arrowheads, bits of bowls,

blue and brown cork bottles,

the handle of a sword

I kept under my pillow,

part of a clay pipe

carved like an eagle,

bullets, molars, bones.

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Sometimes I’d strike gold

and the creaky old bus

would get stuck in the mud,

and I could ride the tide

in Blackbeard’s smoky boat

with Calico Jack,

Mortimer’s ghost,

wild women’s whiskey

and dead law men,

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rattling chains and haints

and steams and all those

shrieking, bubbling, stewing

salt marsh demons that didn’t

scare me one little bit.

I was Bloody Bonnie.

I was Queen of the Deep.

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Just when the net mender

twisted, turned and tightened

to pull all the good parts taut,

it never failed, that damned bus,

that old yellow devil would appear

through the fog and hiss to a stop.

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I slumped on the back seat

and rubbed the damp glass

to watch my captain

through a hole in the fog

until he turned

into a fuzzy gray clam

and then nothing.

I finished his stories

in my head on my way

to the real, dull world.

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But that was before

government regulations

and rich folks moved in.

That was before

they taxed the fishermen

and our waterfront shacks

right out of existence.

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The last time I saw Captain Jake,

they had bulldozed his hole

and sacked him off

to the Old Sailor’s Home

where to this day

he mends invisible nets

in the piss thick air.

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Now his hole’s infested

with real estate snakes.

The town holds festivals

for yuppies and pays people

with degrees to tell stories.

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They display prettied up pictures

of ships and shrimpers and pirates

that would make Walt Disney proud.

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They couldn’t tell a good tale

if it bit them on the ass.

They wouldn’t know a treasure

from a hole in the ground.

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I’m very excited to have three poems included in ouroboros review.   I’ve been a fan since ouroboros review first appeared on the scene last winter.  In just a few short months, ouroboros review has grown to both a print journal and an online zine.  It continues to grow and reach new audiences every day.

Ouroboros Review is edited by Jo Hemmant of Florescence and Christine Swint of Balanced On The Edge.  Both Jo and Christine are exceptional poets.  I think that makes a big difference in how beautiful the magazine is.  They have a true concern for poets and artists.  It’s a labor of love for them.

Michelle McGrane is the featured poet, and her work is astounding in its power and excellence.  Check out more of her poetry at her blog, peony moon.  Seriously.  You will be blown away.

There is also a very interesting interview with her.  Michelle’s third book of poetry will be published by Pindrop Press in 2010.  Pindrop Press is a new venture for the ouroboros editors, and they will also be hosting a chapbook competition in the future.

Collin Kelley also interviews musician and poet Vanessa Daou in this issue, and it is another top notch read.

All of the poets and artists are excellent, and I am honored to be included next to them all.  You can read my poems and all the others by clicking HERE.

There is also a store where the print journal can be purchased.  I’ve already ordered a copy and can’t wait to hold it in my hands.

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One thing I love about writing poetry is that it helps me understand people.   If I can “leave my own head” and enter someone else’s (or at least try to), I have a better understanding of why a person acts a certain way.  It helps me let go of hurt.   I also learn things about myself.

I originally wrote this poem when a friend was experiencing some rough times in her life.  She was close to forty and suddenly seemed so angry at everyone, including me.  At first, I was hurt.  My attitude was, “Everybody is older.  I am.  You are.  Big deal.  Why are you being so mean?”

Through writing this poem, I realized that my attitude was just as hurtful to her.

After a few revisions, I also realized that this poem isn’t only about her.  It’s about me, too.  It’s about every woman and the crap we have to deal with in a society that tells us we’re washed up once we hit thirty.

To that bit of conventional wisdom, I have one thing to say.  I say it for my friend and for myself.  I say it for my mother and for my daughter.  And I say it in the sweetest voice you can ever imagine:

Society can kiss off.

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When She Is Older

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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They will say she’s not

an angel anymore;

run ashore, she will be

a sagging mast, a vessel

half full, worthless

as wings on a bull.

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She’ll be a heavy chain

on a poor man’s balls,

a caricature in a shawl

they will draw in gray

chalk on a crumbling

sidewalk in autumn.

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She will be issued

a uniform, told to

clip her hair above

her ears and cover

her breasts with wool.

Her body will not be

needed anymore; she

will be a discordant note,

a dust mote floating

over dry hills, a bat

flapping against rafters,

a black hole caving in,

taking up space.

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Her beauty, her grace,

her twenty years of work

won’t be as admired

as a sixteen-year-old

girl twirling her hair

in the front row.

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They will not understand

why the words they sow

will gestate in her soul

until she gives birth

to tornadoes of fire.

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They won’t know why

she rages in the pasture

spraying bitter venom-

she devil, shrew,

crazy aging bitch

desperate

to fly, to fling

their words at the sun.

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She will be shrill, they will

give her pretty purple pills.

She will not understand that

only the anger of youth

is worth reading about.

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Right now, she is pink,

uncreased, layered in silk

and asleep with her tiny fist

pressed against her lips.

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They say it is not real;

still she smiles, full

of a woman’s thick milk,

dreaming of angels.

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It’s been an extra good week for me, because I also have a new poem at      Rusty Truck.   How’s that for a cool title?  In my opinion, rusty trucks are the best ones of all.  I love the header picture and layout, too.  The work over there has been blowing me out of my seat since Rusty Truck began.

Many people already know the editor of Rusty Truck.  Scot Young is an excellent poet, and you can find his work at his blog, Be Not Inhospitable To Strangers.  Scot also has amazing interviews and reviews of some great poets.  Take some time to flip through his blog archives to see what he has done.

You can read my poem either at the link above or HERE.  Be sure to check out all the awesome work and bookmark Rusty Truck for future reads.

I like rust.  And I think Scot’s truck is going to keep running for a long time.

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I have a poem published at The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.  A couple more of my poems will be there in the coming months.  I’ve been a big fan of theirs for a long time now.

But I was too chicken to send them anything in the past.  Rejection doesn’t usually get me down for long, but I would have been crushed if The Mule had rejected me.  Crushed.

The Dead Mule has a beautiful layout.  It contains a wide spectrum of people and some of the most innovative writing I’ve seen anywhere.  Period.  I am thrilled to be included.

You don’t have to be Southern or have Southern roots to get published at The Mule.  But you do have to submit a Southern Legitimacy Statement.  I had fun with my statement.  You can check it out HERE.  Click on my name for the poem.  It’s in honor of a very special lady and is a true story.

Or if you’re tired of hearing me talk and want to go straight to the poem, it’s HERE.  But please do stick around the Mule to read it all.  You’ll be glad you did.

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